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Family seeks answers after son's "probable" COVID-19 death

Posted at 11:28 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 23:28:19-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A Western New York family is mourning the death of their 31 year old son, but they're also looking for answers.

Joseph Gonzalez, 31, passed away in his Depew home last Friday. He was sick for a few days and had shortness of breath, as well as underlying conditions. His parents said his death certificate states the cause of death as "probable COVID-19 with underlying condition." His parents said they're left seeking closure.

"How do you tell people, you don’t know how your loved one died," Joseph Gonzalez, Gonzalez's father, said.

The family said they reached out to the Erie County Health Department, and multiple area hospitals, hoping a COVID-19 test or an autopsy could be performed. They said the health department told them they don't test the deceased, they were also denied an autopsy.

The Erie County Health Department did not specify to 7 Eyewitness News if it performs autopsies on probable COVID-19 deaths, and if it tests the deceased.

The family understands why they were denied a COVID-19 test, now they're hoping a pathologist can swab their son for future testing.

“If they could store it, we could find out two months from no,w two years from now," Patricia Lamb-Gonzalez, Gonzalez's mother said. "I need that rest to know what my son died of, I’m sorry probable on a death certificate..." "Probable is not an answer,” the father said.

The parents describe Joseph as a "strong guy, with a big heart." He went out grocery shopping for many of his family members who were more vulnerable than he was, so they would not have to go out during the pandemic.

His parents are quarantining as a precautionary measure, not knowing whether or not their son did have COVID-19.

The family said it's as if they are in limbo.

“We can’t resolve what was the cause of his death but we could resolve corona pushed this, or corona caused this, it would just give us some piece of mind.”